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Video: What Ash Wednesday Means Today

Christians will gather this Ash Wednesday to observe the beginning of Lent, the 40-days leading up to the Easter celebration. But what does Ash Wednesday mean to followers today?

For those who may be struggling with their faith during difficult times, they are given an opportunity to reprocess, reevaluate and rejuvenate during the holy season known as Lent, which begins today on Ash Wednesday.

Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.

However, times are changing and many of the local clergy agree—it is a universal understanding that we all deserve a period of atonement and cleansing, whichever faith you observe.

The Rev. Daniel Gray of in Portsmouth explains that this Ash Wednesday is not just a period of time to “give something up, only to go right back” at the end of the 40 days. "It’s about doing something to bring about permanent change," he says. 

The Rev. Peter Andrews of St. Theresa Church in Tiverton adds,  “I think peoples' attitudes towards Ash Wednesday have changed and we are seeing more of a spiritual dimension to it and able to see the real meaning to what the season of Lent is about. It offers us an opportunity to jump start.”

Father Damian of the , when asked about any changes in the tradition of the Ash Wednesday observance in the Christian faith, responded, “Ash Wednesday has not changed much in Catholic practice.

"What has happened is that many non-Catholic denominations are now observing this day and distributing ashes as a graphic means of calling people's attention to the need for repentance during the season of Lent as a way of preparing for Easter.”

Pastor William Taylor of the admits, when he arrived in Portsmouth as pastor of the local Methodist church, there was no formal observance of Ash Wednesday. Taylor re-instituted the tradition at the Methodist church.

Unlike other houses of worship in the area, the Methodist church offers a brass bowl on the altar, where parishioners are encouraged to write down on paper their "sins," which they would like to release to the lord. The paper is then burned, and the smoke represents the "giving over to" or release to the lord.

Featured at right is a video, offering more insight on this holy day known as Ash Wednesday.

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